News / Middle East

US Sends Envoy to Egypt

A crowd remains late in the afternoon in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Feb 1, 2011
A crowd remains late in the afternoon in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Feb 1, 2011

The United States has sent its former ambassador to Egypt to meet with Egyptian officials and provide his assessment of the situation.

The U.S. State Department confirmed Tuesday that Frank Wisner was in Cairo on behalf of the U.S. government.

Wisner served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt from 1986 to 1991, and a senior official told The New York Times that he is a "friend" of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Also Tuesday, U.S. Senator John Kerry called for Mr. Mubarak to gracefully "step aside."

Kerry, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the people of Egypt have "moved beyond" Mr. Mubarak and his regime.

He said he believes it is vital for the Egyptian president to transform this moment into the "new future for Egypt."

In Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Mr. Mubarak to listen to the demands of his people as they call for change.

Meanwhile, the United Nations human rights chief said Mr. Mubarak's government has committed serious abuses, including widespread torture.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also called on the government to stop interfering with communications, and to ensure security forces avoid using excessive force.

On Monday, the United States dismissed Mr. Mubarak's move to name a new government, saying the situation calls for action and not appointments.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the U.S. is calling for "a change in the way the country works," but did not say Mr. Mubarak should step down.

White House officials say the U.S. is pushing Mr. Mubarak to work to meet the demands of protesters by lifting emergency laws, allowing non-governmental organizations to operate and freeing political prisoners.

Gibbs said Washington wants "meaningful negotiations" among all groups in Egypt, and he repeated the Obama administration's call for free and fair elections.

The U.S. has long backed Mr. Mubarak as a friend to Israel and a bulwark against radical Islam.

The U.S. State Department confirmed Tuesday that Frank Wisner was in Cairo on behalf of the U.S. government.

Wisner served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt from 1986 to 1991, and a senior official told The New York Times that he is a "friend" of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Also Tuesday, U.S. Senator John Kerry called for Mr. Mubarak to gracefully "step aside."

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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